Marlins Aiming For The Playoffs in 2017
As the season begins this week, the Marlins are looking to snap their 13-year playoff drought, the longest of any team in the National League. This season begins at a tumultuous time for team, with questions over whether it will be sold any time soon by owner Jeffery Loria and complications regarding the tragic death of pitcher Jose Fernandez last September.
Loria possibly selling the team could throw a wrench into the entire season, creating a serious distraction for players and coaches alike. Rumors over a possible sale have been flourishing for months, and if they continue into the season it may also cause a rift between the front office and the coaching staff. This type of toxic environment would be a serious detriment to the team.
Details involving the death of Fernandez grew more complicated last week when it was revealed Fernandez was responsible for the crash since he drove the boat while intoxicated. Had he survived, he could have been criminally charged for his actions on the boat.
Regardless of the now ominous circumstances revolving around Fernandez’s death, it is clear this will also affect the performance of the team on the field. Fernandez was the Marlins’ ace, and his 14.3 career WAR and 2.58 ERA were both excellent numbers that the Marlins’ pitching staff could really use this year. This is especially true because the staff lacks a true ace. The Marlins tried to fill the void left by Fernandez by signing starting pitcher Edinson Volquez and trading for Dan Straily. These two players are both solid mid-rotation pitchers, but starting pitching will clearly be the weak point of this team this year.
However, the Marlins’ front office understood that starting pitching would be the weakest part of the team. Over the offseason, they took a very unconventional approach to boosting their pitching corps. The team decided to go with an untraditional eight man bullpen, thus making the bullpen the strength of the team. Key additions include ex-Red Sox set-up man Brad Ziegler and reliever Junichi Tazawa. This bullpen looks to be one of the best in the league meaning it will hopefully be able to counteract a weak starting pitching staff in the later innings of games.
As far as the lineup is concerned, the team has maintained its core players. The starting lineup should be very similar to last year with the notable exception of Martin Prado at third base, who will start the season on the DL. He will look to return by the end of April. Dee Gordon, Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich, and J.T. Realmuto will try to spark run production from a lineup that was 27th in producing runs despite being 4th in batting average.
The Marlins were clearly frustrated with their inability to score runs last season with Manager Don Mattingly recently saying, “I think there’s an accountability within each other and a vision towards winning instead of a vision towards individual. I think all of that is part of maturity and part of growing up. That’s the areas that we’re going to try to take bites out of.”
The Marlins will likely need strong run production, bullpen play, and a starting rotation that exceeds expectations to snap their playoff drought and have a productive season.